Bert Paton 1993-99
In the summer of 1993 the Dunfermline directors were faced with a real quandary following their dismissal of Jocky Scott. With the acrimony over the departure of Jim Leishman still reverberating, the Board needed a manager who would not only restore the supporters' faith in the club but was capable of achieving this on a vastly reduced budget. The appointment of Bert Paton was a masterstroke; already a legend at East End Park thanks to a sublime playing career, his coaching experience and eye for talent made him the ideal choice for the task in hand.
Bert's senior career began as a 17 year-old in 1960 with Leeds United, who spotted him playing for the Tulliallan Thistle team that reached the Scottish Juvenile Cup Final. Despite scoring 22 goals in the Leeds' reserves, Bert never made a first team appearance even though the club suffered relegation from the First Division. The inevitable cutback in playing staff saw him released and he returned to Scotland to be signed by Dunfermline boss Jock Stein on 31st July 1961.
Over the next few seasons he developed into a first-team regular, no mean feat in such a talented side. An unselfish player, Bert helped the likes of Alex Ferguson and Pat Gardner to the best football of their careers and was no slouch at goalscoring himself, his total of 88 being the fifth highest in Dunfermline's post-war history.Unfortunately, a twice-broken leg brought a premature end to his playing career.
Bert took up coaching, first at Lochgelly Albert and then under George Farm at Raith Rovers before landing his first managerial position, at Cowdenbeath. From there he returned to Kirkcaldy for a six-month spell in charge and then spent four years as a coach with Hearts, resigning in 1980 to devote more time to his business concerns. After six years away from the game he was enticed back by former Athletic team-mate Alex Totten, who had just been appointed manager of Dumbarton. The following season the pair moved to St. Johnstone, where they rapidly transformed the club's fortunes, winning two promotions in three seasons to gain a place in the Premier Division. St. Johnstone's decision to sack Bert in 1992 shocked Scottish football but their loss turned out to be Dunfermline's gain. After a season running junior side Rosyth Recreation, Bert crowned a lifelong ambition by becoming manager of the Pars.
Working with assistant Dick Campbell, a long-time friend and perfect foil, Bert remained a disciple of Jock Stein and successfully recaptured something of the team spirit he enjoyed as a player at East End. His attack-minded philosophy proved popular with the fans and following a couple of near-misses, Bert led the club to the First Division title in 1995/96.
Adept at spotting and nurturing talent from the lower leagues, such as Stewart Petrie, Andy Tod, Mark Millar and Derek Fleming (not to mention Jackie McNamara from the youth set-up), Bert also got the best out of experienced professionals such as Andy Smith, Gerry Britton and Kenny Ward. Despite leading the club to a fifth-place finish in the Premier Division and two national cup semi-finals, by 1998/99 Bert found himself worn down by a slump in form and a ridiculous level of criticism from a hostile media. Too many matches were ending in draws and following yet another, against Hearts on 2nd January, a disillusioned Bert Paton resigned.
In terms of results, he ranks as one of the most successful Dunfermline managers of all time and, perhaps just as importantly for such a nice guy, he remains an immense favourite with the supporters.